Two convicted felons who were accused of assaulting and carjacking a man – then leading police of a high-speed chase ending in a car crash causing injuries – pleaded guilty to the felony charges and were sentenced to a California state prison. Defendant's Donovan Adame, 22, and Eric Guzman, 21, were arrested for the incident back in January 2019.
During a status hearing in a Riverside, CA, one admitted in court to assault with a deadly weapon charge and a gang sentencing enhancement allegation by the prosecutor. The other defendant admitted in court to robbery, evading arrest, and DUI causing injury charges.
The judge approved the terms of the plea deals by the prosecutor and sentenced one defendant to 13 years, and the other to 12 years in prison.
Corona police said the defendants confronted a man as he was getting into his car and forcibly took his car keys. When a bystander attempted to help, both were assaulted.
After defendants fled the scene, police were called, who broadcast the incident over the radio. Shortly after, police observed the vehicle an attempted to stop them. However, they attempted to evade police in the vehicle, which ended in a car crash. The victims of the crash were injured and transported to the hospital.
The defendants were also injured, but were treated and released for booking into jail. Court records revealed one of the defendants had prior convictions for felony vandalism, gang activity, drug possession.
California Carjacking Laws – Penal Code 215
California Penal Code 215 describes carjacking as the felonious taking of a motor vehicle from another person – in their immediate presence against their will – with intent to temporarily or permanently deprive them of the vehicle - accomplished by using force or fear.
It should be noted PC 215 doesn't require the vehicle to be taken from the actual driver – rather just taking the vehicle in the presence of a passenger is sufficient to be charged with carjacking.
The term “felonious taking” in the definition is referring to an act of unlawfully taking something, but of course in a PC 215 case, it's refers to taking a vehicle they don't own.
While a Penal Code 215 carjacking case is considered a form of Penal Code 211 robbery, it includes a much broader range of behavior. For example, in order to convict someone of robbery, a prosecutor has to prove there was an intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property.
In a Penal Code 215 carjacking case, a prosecutor only needs to prove there was an intent to deprive the owner of their vehicle temporarily or permanently. For instance, if someone takes another person's vehicle for the purpose of Vehicle Code 10851 joyriding, but decides to return the vehicle, they could still be charged with PC 215 carjacking charges, but not PC 211 robbery charges.
A conviction for carjacking crime could result in nine years in a California state prison, but of course penalties will increase for a gang sentencing enhancement, such as the carjacking case described above.
There are also additional penalties for use of a weapon during carjacking. Since Penal Code 215 carjacking is considered a serious felony crime, a conviction will count as a “strike” under California's Three Strikes Law.
What Factors Must Be Proven for a Carjacking Conviction?
In order to convict a defendant of Penal Code 215 carjacking, the prosecutor must be able to prove what is known as the “elements of the crime.” For a carjacking offense, these factors are listed in CALCRIM 1650 Jury Instructions;
- Defendant took a motor vehicle that was not their own
- Vehicle was taken from immediate presence of a person who has possession, or passenger.
- Vehicle was taken against their will
- Defendant used force or fear to take vehicle, or to prevent them from resisting
- When defendant used force or fear to take vehicle, there intent was to deprive them possession of the vehicle, either temporarily or permanently.
As you can see in these crucial factors, a PC 215 carjacking case requires that the defendant had a specific intent to take the vehicle – permanently or temporarily deprive the owner - either before or during the time they used force or fear to commit the felonious taking.
This means if it can be shown the defendant formed the intent after using force or fear, they might have a valid defense against PC 215 carjacking charges.
Additionally, to prove a PC 215, the prosecutor must also show the vehicle was taken against their will – meaning if the owner gave consent for defendant to take the vehicle – they can't prove PC 215.
Related California Offenses to PC 215 Carjacking
- Penal Code 211 – Robbery
- Penal Code 487(d)(1) – Grand Theft Auto
- Penal Code 209.5 – Kidnapping During Carjacking
- Penal Code 459 – Auto Burglary
- Penal Code 242 - Battery
- Vehicle Code 10851 - Joyriding
Fighting Penal Code 215 Carjacking Charges
If you have been accused of California Penal Code 215 carjacking charges, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can use several strategies for obtain the best possible outcome.
It's important to note that consulting with our law firm early in the case can make a huge difference as we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid the formal filing of charges using prefiling intervention.
However, the most common defenses for carjacking include:
No Force or Fear to Take the Vehicle
We might be able to make an argument you didn't use force or fear to take the vehicle. If you recall the elements of the crime above, this is a crucial element that must be proven. Perhaps you took the vehicle with the owner nearby, but no force was involved. However, you could still face other charges.
Vehicle Not Taken Against Their Will
Again, a PC 215 carjacking charge requires that you took a vehicle against someone's will. If we can show there may have been some type of consent from the owner, you can't be convicted of carjacking. Perhaps the owner gave you initial consent, but later decided to claim you feloniously took their vehicle against their will.
Vehicle Not Taken from Immediate Presence
Again, the elements of the crime state in order to be convicted of carjacking, the vehicle has to be taken from the immediate presence someone in possession, or a passenger. If you took the vehicle outside their presence, it' not PC 215 carjacking.
Although carjacking is a serious felony crime, we may be able to use valid defenses in order to have the charges reduced or dismissed.
If you have been charged with California Penal Code 215 carjacking, you are facing harsh penalties if convicted. Contact our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers and let's discuss the case and options.
We need to review all the details on order to start planning a strategy. We have a record of success in all types of violent crime cases, including carjacking. Call us for a case evaluation.
Eisner Gorin LLP 1875 Century Park E #705 Los Angeles, CA 90067 310-328-3776 https://www.egattorneys.com